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What is Joy?

A Bible Perspective

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness Galatians 5:22

Happiness versus Joy

Happiness is not joy.[1] Happiness depends upon that which happens; it relates to a thing of chance (the word is from the Latin hap, meaning by chance or fortune). Joy on the other hand shapes our attitude to our circumstances and surroundings. The apostle Peter writes:

[Jesus Christ] whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 1 Peter 1:8

Joy is set in reality, happiness much more in circumstance.

Joy is the supernational response of believing the gospel

Joy is a fruit, not created by us, but created by the reality of the circumstance we find ourselves – for a Christian, the reality of being saved by the grace of God after believing in the Jesus Christ the Son of God. One could ask whether a non-saved person can have joy. The answer is, is they have a sense of "moral joy" as perhaps described by David Brooks.[2] Moral joy is not the joy spoken of by the Bible – it is a joy when a person's beliefs and behaviour are in deep harmony, so they have a sense of integrity in the patterns of their life; a quite sense of tranquillity or a successful moral struggle. The failure in such a person is not knowing that they lack salvation. Therefore, moral joy is not the same as, nor can it be, the same as the fruit of joy created supernaturally in a Christian.

Christian joy is objective reality, not subjective feelings; it concerns the facts of the faith we have in Jesus Christ. Humans are miserable by nature – this is the consequence of sin. The power to transform us to a state of joy can only come from God.

Where does joy come from?

The antithesis of a journey of a Christian is that described by Blaise Pascal, a philosopher, who stated "Being unable to cure death, wretchedness and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things." That is, although the entire world speaks about, looks upon, and discusses death (just watch a news report), on the whole people do everything possible not to think (intelligently) about death. My wife works in the aged care sector as a nurse – and she finds it both amazing and terribly distressing to observe people approaching their inevitable death, having not, and not being able to think about death and its consequences.

A Christian has joy because he or she knows they are saved; indeed, they have a reality in salvation of being set free from death and the destination of destruction with Satan – which is much deeper than moral joy because they are alive in Christ.

A Christian has joy because he or she knows they are saved by Jesus Christ the Son of God

The journey to joy consists of the following four elements

Guilt

Guilt provides awareness of the reality of our position before God. Sin is a condition – the reality of our state of our soul. For instance, lust is a condition of our sin (for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God), and in this our state is terminal, leading to death. We are enslaved by sin, unable to set ourselves free by ourselves; thus the misery of humans in general, and their day to day existence in particular. Humans need an awareness of sin and their misery in order seek Jesus as Saviour. The light to show the state of misery, not otherwise observed, is the Holy Spirit.

Grace

The answer to guilt is grace – 'God's Riches at Christ's Expense'. By grace God provided an answer to sin's punishment.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins… But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)
Ephesians 2:1,4,5

A Christian was once enslaved, but now set free by Christ, condemned, but now justified by Christ who is merciful; this is grace.

Gratitude

Grace evokes gratitude; what else could it do? We were once lost, destined to death, but now we are saved. The state of being saved, produces gratitude.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see

(Amazing Grace, John Newton 1725 – 1807)

Joy

If grace evokes gratitude, gratitude evokes joy. The impact of a heart of gratitude is a deep seated joy, being the objective reality, in the same way as is our sinful state was an objective reality. The misery of sin thus is replaced by the joy of being in Christ due to the historical work of Christ on the cross.

Where is Joy found?

Grace, hence gratitude which induces joy is where joy is found: it is an objective natural response. Beware the evil one who wants to rob us of our joy. If you look inward, Satan will win – our joy will be quenched. We need to look out, towards Christ. Note that we may not experience the reality of joy in suffering, but the experience of suffering should bring joy later – this is spiritual growth. We must look at the reality of who Jesus is, what Jesus has done and what it means to be in Jesus. That is the one cure of the lack of joy with the its resulting rest, peace and comfort can only be found in knowing that Jesus of Nazareth – Yeshua the Messiah the Son of God has forgiven me. This can only be accomplished by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

My joy arises because I am free of accusation and guilt, because Jesus Christ loved me and died for me. Thus, when my conscious accuses me, attempts to make me aware of my weakness, my failures, my lack of ability to live as God wants I am driven to the rock of my salvation – from whence the supernatural power of being joyful comes from;

My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Psalms 62:5-8

What can I do with this joy?

The fruit of the Spirit is joy – and this joy enables us to face up to the storms of life. In essence the Christian joy allows us to press onward. Peter states "you believe" then you experience joy with joy inexpressible (1 Peter 1:8). Therefore, what we believe about these essential things of life – sin and death - alters the way we handle the other things of life. As the Psalmist put it: Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits (Psalms 103:2)

A Christian's joy faces head on the storms of life

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
Than when we first begun

(Amazing Grace, John Newton 1725 – 1807)

 

[1] A far more articulate answer was provided by Alistair Begg in a Sermon on 20 July 2016 <https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/joy/> (accessed 21 August 2016)

[2] David Brooks (2015) A Road to Character, Random House, USA

David L Simon (August 2016)
Questions\What is Joy?